Sunday, May 07, 2006

Disco Delivery #18:
Claudja Barry - Sweet Dynamite (1977, Lollipop/Salsoul)

Claudja Barry - Love For The Sake Of Love (A Tom Moulton Mix)
Claudja Barry - Sweet Dynamite (A Tom Moulton Mix)
Claudja Barry - Dance, Dance, Dance (A Tom Moulton Mix)
Claudja Barry - Live A Little Bit (A Tom Moulton Mix)
Claudja Barry - Why Must A Girl Like Me (A Tom Moulton Mix)
Claudja Barry - Love For The Sake Of Love (Original Version)

One of my favourite disco divas this week.. Claudja Barry's probably best known for her hit "Boogie Woogie Dancing Shoes," but this album from '76 (released 1977 in the US) was her first and probably her best among her '70s albums. Overall her other '70s albums were a little bit on the inconsistent side, although there were classics on each of them. For me though, she wouldn't top this album until her "Made In Hong Kong" (1981, Lollipop/Polydor) LP some five years later.. Claudja, in my opinion, had one of the more unique voices in the disco era. A classically trained vocalist, she never really fit the typical mould of a black disco singer, that of the gospel/R&B inflected vocal style, but instead one that was perhaps more torchy than conventionally soulful. Although apparently a huge fan of classic blues and soul (she recently hosted a radio program dedicated to it), her voice was often in another category altogether.

In some ways, you could probably consider Claudja the Canadian Donna Summer, if you will. As much as that may be an unfair comparison, there are some parallels. Born in Jamaica and raised in Toronto, Canada; Claudja's career, much like Donna Summer's, would take off in Germany where she was working as a stage actor in various musicals. While in Germany she would become, albeit briefly, an early member of Boney M. Shortly after her brief association with the group, she would start an association with Jürgen S. Korduletsch, who would go on to become her long time producer, collaborator and later on, her husband. Like Moroder/Bellotte and Kunze/Levay, Korduletsch's sound was another part of that Munich disco sound that was riding pretty high at the time. That Munich sound, at least to me, was something of a hybrid of American elements of funk and soul, filtered through a distinctly European pop aesthetic. Claudja's "Sweet Dynamite" album is one of the greatest examples of it, undeniably influenced by funk and R&B, yet sounding totally different from anything that came from the US. It's interesting to note that many of the players and personnel on this record like Keith Forsey, Gary Unwin, Thor Baldursson, Pepe Solera, Roberta Kelly, Jürgen Koppers etc.. were ubiquitous on many of the disco records out of Munich..

The original issue of Claudja's album contained ten tracks, most of which were under five minutes. For the most part the album was still disco, yet somewhat more diverse than the US release. There was not only the disco tracks, but others showing a slower, smoother side like her take on Gershwin's "Do It Again" and "This Taste Of Love," as well as "Nobody Loves Me Like You Do Do" (originally done by a singer named Jeanne Burton) really showing off her torchy side. This version was originally released in much of Europe and in Canada on Lollipop/Philips among other labels. It wasn't until the following year when the album was licensed for the US by the legendary Salsoul label that it was disco-fied in a big way. For their stateside release, Salsoul would commission mix master Tom Moulton to re-mix the album. Even though the album was cut down to five tracks, the results, like many Tom Moulton mixes, are significant improvements on the originals. Speaking of Tom Moulton Mixes, I just have to say that I think it's a bit unfortunate that the classic extended mix seems to have fell out of favour in, say, the past fifteen years or so. While there's something to be said about the creativity in remixing today, taking a song out of it's original context and putting a competely different backing on it; as far as I'm concerned, you can't lose by extending and building on the elements of an already great song. Taking apart the layers and bringing them up front, zeroing in it's best elements and extending them, it's exactly the sort of thing Moulton did so well.

One of the most well known songs on this album, and one that exemplifies Tom Moulton's mixing style so well is "Love For The Sake Of Love," a slow, smouldering, sensual groove with a sly guitar and a sexy vocal. Takes you up and takes you down and back again during it's nearly eight minute span.. A simple groove, lyric and melody that manages to work so well. The Moulton mix brings up the tempo a little from the original, taking some of those great background vocals up front and not to mention adding those wonderful breaks. One of those songs that seem to embody sexy when "sexy" was an art form.. Several years back it seems the breaks on this song were pretty popular. "Love For The Sake Of Love" was most recently and successfully sampled on Montell Jordan's "Get It On Tonite" from 2000 (a top 5 hit in the US), and less successfully (in my opinion, anyway) on Da Brat's "What'chu Like" also from 2000. Now speaking of sexy as an art form, despite Brat's sexual "confessions," there was just something so decidedly un-sexy about her delivery on that track. Amusing, yes. Sexy? No.. But I digress.

On to the next song... "Dance, Dance, Dance" (no relation to the Chic song of the same name) is probably my favourite track on the album right now. A fabulous song about dancing your tears, fears and troubles away.. Can't get enough of those big-band horns and Claudja's tremendous vocal, complete with funky guitar in the background to keep things swinging. There's also a great bass solo and some hot percussion on the break as well.

The title track "Sweet Dynamite" follows in much the same vein as "Dance, Dance, Dance." Albeit this time with a fuller arrangement, faster tempo and a suitably dynamic, almost ferocious vocal from Claudja. Got to mention that great horn and string section as well. There are also some really funky bass and synth sounds in the background which really get to shine on the break.. Like the lyrics say, it's "like a burning fire.."

Claudja would go on to release even more great records after this album. Even if some of her subsequent albums wouldn't top this one, she'd manage to build a excellent canon of disco and dance classics well into the 1980's. The original version of this album was released on CD in 1993 by Hot Productions. As far as I know, it's out of print, but well worth tracking down, as the album is great and the sound quality on the CD is excellent. These days her producer/husband(?) Jürgen Korduletsch runs the Radikal Records label. Also, Claudja herself has been making something of a comeback lately after effectively retiring from music during the 1990s. Her latest single "I Will Stand" was released last month on her own label Donna Jean Records. It also seems to be her first record without the involvement of Jürgen, which leads me to wonder if they are even still married. In any case, I hope to do a post about her new single very soon.

If you've gotten this far, I'd just like to add that I probably won't be doing the Disco Delivery posts on a set schedule anymore. Some of you have probably noticed I'm no longer sticking to Fridays. It seems my "holidays" will be more busy than my school days, so time will be a little tighter for me in the next little while. I'll still try to bring the "Deliveries" at the end of every week, but that could be anytime from Friday to Sunday.

Anyway, with that out of the way, I just added a couple great new music blogs this week. Music Is My Boyfriend and Milk Carton Pop Stars.. Check 'em out!


CLAUDJA BARRY BIO (circa. 2002)




Sexbox said...

I continued to be fascinated by all of the disco goodies I have never heard of.
As for your schedule, as long as we can get one update a week I am happy!

Tommy said...

Thanks CS! I really appreciate it :) I'll try to keep the disco coming at least until I run out of disco albums (which won't be for a little while now hehe)..

mf said...

tommy,you making me happy with these great tunes.......I'm wondering if you ever heard of Deniece Williams " I've got the next dance" and if you'll be doing a post on her music. Anyways I've been enjoying everthing so far....Keep it up (-_-) !!!!!!!

Tommy said...

Thanks mf, glad you like them! :)

To be honest, I actually don't have any of Deniece Williams' records yet. I'll have to get them sometime soon. I'll keep that song in mind though..

Thanks again :)

Jerry Bonham said...


just came across your blog...intelligent and passionate reviews...I have fond memories of walking into the Ya'll Come Back Saloon in Minneapolis, and hearing "Sweet Dynamite" thundering through the speakers..."Sweet Dynamite" remains one of my all time favorites to this day.

Tommy said...

I've been remiss in not replying to a lot of the comments that have come accumulated on the blog in the last while, so I apologize for getting to this late, but thanks so much for the kind words, Jerry. I've heard so much about your prowess on the decks, so I'm glad you find something you like here.. I'd have to agree, "Sweet Dynamite" still packs some major disco power. Thanks again!

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